Your Beatitude, you will be in Rome on May 17th for the canonization of two Palestinian nuns, and you have invited the President of the Palestinian State to come with you. What does this event of the universal Church represent for the inhabitants of the Holy Land in this moment of history?
“The canonization of these two Palestinian saints is a spiritual highpoint for the inhabitants of the Holy Land. In the midst of all our difficulties, Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine are a light on our path, an invitation not to be discouraged and to keep our eyes fixed on our goal and our shared vocation as Christians: holiness. If today the Holy Land, so torn by violence and divisions, sometimes seems disfigured, our two saints come to restore its sanctity. It is as if Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine, by their example, were saying to us, “Yes, the Holy Land can be fruitful, and it can bear fruits of holiness.” Holiness is still possible, even in an extremely difficult context.
Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine did not experience the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their life on earth, but they also lived in troubled times and in extreme poverty. Mariam, who did not receive education, was actually illiterate. Yet, both of them, in perseverance, patience, and humility, loved God and their brethren, through charity and sacrifice, to the point of becoming saints.”
What is the great message of these two new saints, Mariam Bawardi and Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas—to whom you have just devoted a pastoral letter—, for today’s world?
“It is a message of hope and love, a message of encouragement to holiness through humility and simplicity. Mariam referred to herself as “the little nothing” of Jesus Crucified. Marie-Alphonsine also lived in the greatest humility and was sometimes persecuted, while the sisters who lived with her ignored until the end that she was the foundress of her community, the Sisters of the Rosary of Jerusalem.
The message of both is that we should be lived in God’s presence, relying on Him for everything, with full confidence, in the midst of even the greatest difficulties. Marie Alphonsine, like Mariam, received everything from God. The Blessed Virgin showed her the plans of the church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in Jerusalem. Likewise, the Holy Spirit showed Mariam where to found the Carmel of Bethlehem. Both listened to God in the smallest details of their lives. So, I would say that their great message is that holiness is accessible to all, holiness as a loving and intimate relationship with God.
Now, the fact that Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine, the first modern Palestinian saints, are both Arabs is a sign of hope for Palestine, for the entire Holy Land and the Middle East: holiness is always possible, even in a war-torn region. May a generation of saints follow them!”
What do you expect from the meeting with Pope Francis, and, more largely, what is the pilgrimage program of the delegation that you will lead on this occasion?
“The meeting with the Holy Father, in the extraordinary context of these canonizations, will be a time of great joy for us. I am sure that it will rekindle the hope of our faithful in the Middle East and encourage them to remain firm in the faith and keep their eyes fixed on heaven, especially in these difficult times that Christians are experiencing there. Mariam and Marie-Alphonsine are a consolation from Heaven. We have seen this year that Pope Francis constantly looks towards our region. He has repeatedly deplored the unprecedented atrocities against Christians and minorities in the Middle East, expressing his deep concern, and multiplied the initiatives: the meeting, in the Vatican, with the apostolic nuncios to Egypt, the Holy Land, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, from 2 to 4 October 2014; the Ordinary Consistory on the Middle East, on 20 October 2014; the Letter to the Christians of the Middle East, for Christmas, etc.
Marie-Alphonsine and Mariam are both daughters of the Christian East, and I believe that their canonization in this searing context is also a call from the Pope to prayer, which alone can miraculously help our region to recover. We now have two new saints to intercede for Peace. Their search for wisdom and their divine message represent a model of perfection for Christians as well as for Jews and Muslims. Both have Mary, Miriam, as their first name; and this name, common to our three traditions, is also a sign for our time, indicating that they can speak to all three without distinction.”
Source: Vatican Insider